Not a Movie Snob - The Irishman

Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at 05:00 PM

"Your brothers and sisters"

The Irishman (2019)

Movie Review by Not a Movie Snob X

The Irishman is about Jimmy Hoffa and how and why he disappeared. It's about the Union. It's about the mob. It's about loyalty and betrayal and murder and extortion and corruption. But what it's really about, is death. The Irishman is a meditation on death. It's made up of characters who are either dying too young, or too old. And it's about the loneliness that comes with outliving all your friends, all your rivals.

Frank Sheeran, the real Frank Sheeran, the Irishman of the film's title, lived to the age of 83. That gave him plenty of time to think of all the people he righted and wronged, loved and lost, cared for, and killed.
The Irishman is Frank's story. In short (very short), it goes like this: Frank was a truck driver who befriended a mobster, who became a Teamster who befriended THE Teamster, Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa disappeared in 1975 and was never heard from again.

That's a cool story, but the thing that makes this movie such an event for cinephiles (or anyone who enjoys movies at any level) is that it is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars mob movie royalty Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Rounding out the impossible cast is Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Jesse Plemons and Anna Paquin.

What all this means is that even with a runtime as ambitious (egotistical?) as three and a half full hours, there is never a single second of runtime that isn't gorgeously conceived and executed. Scorsese is a master of the art of cinema. Whether he's making a movie about Jesus changing his mind about being crucified, a biopic about Howard Hughes, a lonely taxi driver, a famous prize fighter, or a young orphaned boy living inside the clocks of a Paris train station, he nails everything he does. But it's his mafia movies that are his great legacy, even though he's only made a few of them. They are the first movies that come to mind when people hear the word Scorsese. And in every one of them, is Robert DeNiro. So when people call the Irishman a 'homecoming' for Scorsese and DeNiro (and Pesci for that matter, an actor who, by choice, very rarely takes a role in anything these days), they mean just that.

The Irishman employs an interesting bit of special effects magic, something that has been finding its way into several movies lately, whereby computers are used to digitally de-age an actor's appearance. They did it several years ago in David Fincher's Benjamin Button. They did it earlier this year to Will Smith in Gemini Man. And they do it here when DeNiro, Pesci and Pacino play themselves as forty somethings. This technology is relatively young still and to be frank, it doesn't fully work. While it's impressive that these actors are attempting to embody a younger version of themselves, the de-aging looks awkward. And despite how accomplished these men are as performers, when they play their younger selves, they still move and hunch and speak like men in their 60's and 70's. So it can be a little distracting. I think if this movie was made five years from now, they would have been able to do a lot better with it. But The Irishman has been in some form of production since, I believe, 2007, so waiting another five years for technology to catch up to it wasn't happening.

That being said, the story is so fascinating, the performances so brilliant (particularly Pesci's, who for my money is a lock for Best Supporting Actor this upcoming awards season), and the filmmaking so assured and elegiac, that you stop being distracted by the de-aging stuff pretty quickly.

It's not a spoiler to say that Hoffa doesn't make it all the way through the movie. He rubs some powerful lawbreakers the wrong way, impeding upon their ability to make as much money as they would like, and they eventually pull the trigger on him, so to speak.

'It's what it is', DeNiro's Sheeran tells Pacino's Hoffa at one point. Meaning 'knock it off or you're a dead man'. Pacino looks at DeNiro with the perfect mixture of fear and arrogant invincibility, as only Pacino could. 'They wouldn't dare!' he says. DeNiro shoots back with the perfect mixture of concern and annoyance, as only DeNiro could. 'Don't say they wouldn't dare. Don't say they wouldn't dare.'

It's an amazing display of writing, directing and acting, and it's these little moments peppered throughout the marathon length of the film that get stuck in your head. I've watched the film twice already and noticed plenty the second time around that I missed the first. I suspect I'll catch things the third time that I missed the second, and so on.

That's Scorsese for you. That's why he's the best living filmmaker and why The Irishman is one of the best films of the year. 

Rating: *****

Calgary Showtimes: Irishman, The >


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to